And here you thought it couldn’t get any worse than SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, well guess again folks because the US Trade Representative wants to annihilate one of the most fundamental rights of consumers – the First Sale Doctrine and it is using a secret trade agreement to do it.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the concept of First Sale Doctrine here’s a blurb from Wikipedia on it
The first-sale doctrine is a limitation on copyright that was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1908 (see Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus) and subsequently codified in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 109. The doctrine allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e., sell, lend or give away) a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained. This means that the copyright holder’s rights to control the change of ownership of a particular copy ends once ownership of that copy has passed to someone else, as long as the copy itself is not an infringing copy. This doctrine is also referred to as the “right of first sale,” “first sale rule,” or “exhaustion rule.”
In basic terms this means for example that right now you can walk into a store and buy a book and then even ten minutes later turn around and sell that book yourself to say a friend or a used book store, who in turn could then resell it, and there would be no repercussion – you wouldn’t be breaking any laws.
What the United States is trying to do is to basically drive a stake into that First Sale Doctrine via something called the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP); which is being negotiated with partner counters in total secrecy. While there has been one leaked section of the agreement the real extent of the intent of the TPP wasn’t really known until recently.
If you want a really in depth and excellent look into what the TPP is and its ramifications are then you should make reading John Mitchell’s post mandatory but this little tidbit from the post should give you an inkling of the disaster that will happen for consumers if this thing goes through.
The current draft of the TPP has a provision that the major college textbook publishers could not have drafted any better themselves, as it mirrors the outcome advocated in their briefs. It would require treaty parties to codify the Ninth Circuit’s damaging ruling, thereby creating a huge loophole for U.S. copyright holders to take control all secondary markets for their works, as well as to control primary markets, by requiring all retailers to obtain a copyright owner’s “license to sell” in addition to outright ownership of noninfringing copies – if those copies are made abroad.
The thing is we aren’t talking about just books here – we are talking about all goods. WE are talking about the total disappearance of the legal second-hand market place. We are talking about it being basically illegal to buy and sell and goods that have already been sold by the originator of the item.
Sure I imagine the whole idea is to make it so that who ever is doing the reselling would have to – by law – pay the original maker of the item a royalty; or some such monetary remuneration, which would then get passed on to the consumer, thereby increasing the cost to probably close to what the price of a new item is.
As bad as SOPA, PIPA and ACTA might be this latest effort is even worse because it goes far beyond just entertainment and affects everything we buy.